How Twitter’s Ban on ‘Deadnaming’ Promotes Free Speech

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/29/opinion/twitter-deadnaming-ban-free-speech.html

Trans people are less likely to speak up if they know they’re going to be constantly told they don’t exist.

By Parker Molloy
Nov. 29, 2018

In September, Twitter announced changes to its “hateful conduct” policy, violations of which can get users temporarily or permanently barred from the site. The updates, an entry on Twitter’s blog explained, would expand its existing rules “to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.” A little more than a month later, the company quietly rolled out the update, expanding the conduct page from 374 to 1,226 words, which went largely unnoticed until this past week.

While much of the basic framework stayed the same, the latest version leaves much less up for interpretation. Its ban on “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone” was expanded to read: “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”

The final sentence, paired with the fact that the site appeared poised to actually enforce its rules, sent a rumble through certain vocal corners of the internet. To trans people, it represented a recognition that our identity is an accepted fact and that to suggest otherwise is a slur. But to many on the right, it reeked of censorship and “political correctness.”

Twitter is already putting the policy into effect. Last week, it booted Meghan Murphy, a Canadian feminist who runs the website Feminist Current. Ms. Murphy hasn’t exactly supported trans people — especially trans women. She regularly calls trans women “he” and “him,” as she did referring to the journalist and trans woman Shon Faye in a 2017 article. In the run-up to her suspension, Ms. Murphy tweeted that “men aren’t women.” While this is a seeming innocuous phrase when considered without context, the “men” she was referring to were trans women.

As a transgender woman, I find it degrading to be constantly reminded that I am trans and that large segments of the population will forever see me as a delusional freak. Things like deadnaming, or purposely referring to a trans person by their former name, and misgendering — calling someone by a pronoun they don’t use — are used to express disagreement with the legitimacy of trans lives and identities.

Defenders of these practices claim that they’re doing this not out of malice but out of honesty and, perhaps, even a twisted sort of love. They surely see themselves as truth-tellers fighting against political correctness run amok. But sometimes, voicing one’s personal “truth” does just one thing: It shuts down conversation.

At The Guardian, Kenan Malik argued that banning misgendering will shut down debate on trans issues and strike a blow to free speech. But in fact, the content free-for-all chills speech by allowing the dominant to control the parameters of debate, never letting discussion proceed past the pedantic obsession with names and pronouns.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/29/opinion/twitter-deadnaming-ban-free-speech.html

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